Chilkat Valley News - Serving Haines and Klukwan, Alaska since 1966

As kings become 'stock of concern'; unprecedented restrictions on the table


January 11, 2018

Alaska Department of Fish and Game Biologists labeled Chilkat king salmon a “stock of concern” and is proposing unprecedented restrictions for sport, commercial and subsistence fishing.

A stock of concern designation applies when salmon stocks don’t meet historical abundance levels. Fish and Game wrote a draft action plan to help rebuild king salmon runs. The Alaska Board of Fisheries will consider that plan, and proposed restrictions, at its meeting in Sitka next week.

During the last five out of six years, king salmon runs have failed to meet the low end of the 1,750 return range despite increased restrictions on sport, commercial and subsistence fishing regulations, according to Fish and Game data. Fish and Game is projecting a record low return for 2018—a meager 1,030 kings compared to the 2,830 average since 2007. Last summer’s preliminary king return estimate is 1,231.

In an effort to prevent further king salmon declines, Fish and Game biologists have proposed a host of new restrictions. On the commercial end, that could mean closing more areas for longer time periods and reducing fishing periods.

Wyatt Rhea-Fournier, area management biologist for commercial fisheries, said Fish and Game already implemented more conservative management practices last summer such as setting a maximum mesh size, implementing night closures and keeping the commercial fleet out of Chilkat Inlet.

“If the board decides that’s not conservative enough we could implement night closures in the upper and lower end and reduce more area and fishing times.”

A decrease of time and area in Section 15-A will reduce sockeye harvest, according to the Fish and Game action plan.

Ryan Cook is heading to Sitka for the meeting. He’s going to speak for the local advisory council and wants to see more restrictions placed on seiners. The board will also consider a proposal that would remove the 15,000 catch cap on wild sockeye near Hawk Inlet.

“It’s going to be a battle,” Cook said. “The seiners want the world.”

Cook said it would be devastating for the gillnet fleet if the board closes or restricts areas during early fishing periods for enhanced chum in 15-C.

“Those first five weeks are really crucial to us,” Cook said. “Hopefully we can get a happy medium.”

The agency also proposed closing wide-scale commercial troll areas along with limiting or closing all spring trolling.

The agency proposed closing subsistence fishing in the Chilkat Inlet until July 31, about a week longer than last summer and setting a maximum 5 3/8-inch mesh size in the Chilkat River until July 31. Biologists also proposed closing subsistence fishing in the Chilkat River until the third Saturday in June or from that time until July 31 besides a section near Klukwan that would remain open for three days a week.

Marvin Willard has been subsistence fishing around Klukwan for 65 years. He said he’s open to to increased restrictions as long as subsistence fishing doesn’t take the biggest hit.

Visit and find the board of fisheries page to see the action plan along with the full list of proposed restrictions. Details on how to provide written comments and public testimony are also available on the website.

“That’s the only way we’re going to save our salmon,” Willard said. “I don’t mind cutting back I just don’t want to get cut out.”

The board will meet from Jan. 11-23 to consider 155 proposals on Southeast and Yakatat fishing issues. Members of the public, fishing organizations, local fish and game advisory committees and Fish and Game all submitted proposals.


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